Shot fired at Hobart mall during teen fight; three in custody
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent November 10, 2012 6:41PM
With suspects handcuffed on the ground Saturday, police investigate a shooting at Westfield Southlake Mall in Hobart, Ind. | Photo posted on Facebook
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:50AM
HOBART — Police had three teens in custody and were looking for a fourth Saturday in connection with a shooting that cleared Westfield Southlake Mall about 6:30 p.m. There were no injuries.
Hobart Police Chief Jeff White said the shooting occurred in the open central area of the mall on the ground-floor level near the merry-go-round and stemmed from an altercation between two groups of youths.
White said it appears one group of boys got into a fight with another group.
“One of the teens pulled out a weapon and fired a shot. It did not strike anybody,” White said. The weapon then malfunctioned and a second round was not fired, he said.
The bullet, a large caliber .762 from a Russian-made handgun, lodged in the overhead walkway near Gloria Jean’s Coffee Bean, White said. The Lake County Crime Lab responded to the scene and extricated the bullet.
The mall employs off-duty police officers to work security. Three off-duty Hobart police officers were on the scene when the shot was fired, according to Sgt. Jeremy Ogden.
“The fortunate thing was there were three policemen right above it all when it all happened,” Odgen said. Multiple agencies responded to the mall when the call went out.
Three of the juveniles, 14, 15 and 16 years old, were apprehended in the shopping center. White described the teens as “aggressors.” The weapon was recovered. White said it is believed the 16-year-old fired the shot. The fourth juvenile who was still at large Saturday night is believed to be a brother of one of the teens in custody.
The teens will be taken to the Hobart Police Department and questioned by detectives when their parents arrive. White said the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office will decide on charges. The teen who fired the weapon could be facing felony criminal recklessness charges for discharging the weapon in the mall.
White said the mall went on lockdown when the shooting occurred and began to evacuate.
“The mall did an outstanding job of getting the customers out of harm’s way,” White said.
Eric Pittman of Hobart, who works at White Cloud Cigarettes inside the mall, saw the group of teens playing around and then fighting in the open area. He said when a mall employee attempted to break up the fight it appeared one of the youths fired into the air. He said mall employees quickly closed up their storefronts.
“People were running,” Pittman said.
Terry Postma was waiting in the parking lot outside of Macy’s department store about 7:15 p.m. for his wife, Debbie, a store clerk. Postma said he spoke to his wife by phone five times since the shooting occurred. The store was locked down, but the employees were not being immediately released.
“She’s a little shook up,” Postma said.
Emily Altemus of LaPorte and her friends were in the BAM! bookstore when the shooting occurred. They said they did not hear the shot or know what was going on when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that everyone had to evacuate due to an emergency.
Altemus said no one seemed to panic and shoppers appeared to be leaving the mall in an orderly way even though some were running.
“It was well organized,” she said.
The group was surprised to learn from mall workers as they waited outside the shopping center that a shooting had occurred.
“We were all confused. We didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
Stores at the mall planned to reopen Sunday on their regular schedule.